Past interview of Cameroon's '17-year-old' suspended for age-cheating returns to haunt him

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FOOTBALL Past interview of Cameroon's '17-year-old' suspended for age-cheating returns to haunt him

Mark Kinyanjui 14:33 - 13.03.2024

What Douala, the supposed 17-year-old that Cameroon took to 2023 AFCON in January, said when he identified himself as Alexandre Bardelli in an interview dating back to 2021.

Earlier this week, Cameroon suspended Wilfried Nathan Douala, the alleged 17-year-old prodigy who participated at the Africa Cup of Nations in the Ivory Coast earlier this year, for allegedly falsifying his name and date of birth.

The Cameroon federation FECAFOOT on Monday named Douala among 62 players suspended from the league over administrative irregularities, primarily double identity and age cheating.

French publication Le Monde has now reported that Douala himself had identified as Alexandre Bardeli, a person who bears a striking resemblance to the 'youngster'.

Two years ago, on January 21, 2021, during the African Nations Championship (CHAN) hosted in Cameroon, Le Monde visited the Soppo-Priso training ground in Douala to meet the Oryx team, a financially strapped but legendary club. 

Around twenty young people were running that morning, behind a ball, wearing worn-out boots, with the ultimate dream "to become a pro" and "to make the national team selection" one day.

One of them, who claimed his name was Alexandre Bardelli and he was 21 years old, stood out. Bardeli expressed his dreams, saying, "I want to be pro even if the conditions are not good. It’s possible by sacrificing myself until I reach my goal. I love football."

It was Bardeli's love and obsession with attaining his goal that drove him to kick the ball two or three times a day on a sandy ground.

It has been reported widely that Bardeli's striking resemblance to Douala includes the same scar on their right eyebrow and identical tattoos: the number 69 on the left forearm, a cross near the right hand, three comic strips around the left calf, and a tribal pattern below the right knee.

"Several Oryx alumni confirmed that Bardeli is indeed Douala, admitting, 'Yes, Alexandre Bardelli, it’s Wilfried Nathan Douala'," speaking to Le Monde on condition of anonymity.

If Douala did not cheat his age, the young footballer would have been 15 years old at the time, not 21 years old. "Exactly, the children from our area are not like the children from yours," argued one alumnus who insisted Douala is 17.

However, Facebook and Instagram accounts, dating back to at least 2017, were in the name of Bardelli. The contact number given by Mr. Bardelli at the time now belongs to his mother , as confirmed by his photo displayed on the WhatsApp profile.

When asked about her son's identity before AFCON, she remained evasive, stating, "There are things like that. There are nicknames and everything that goes with them. It does not matter."

A few relatives however claim that it is just a simple "resemblance" between the two men when reached by telephone.

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